Yes Eric Cantor, Ronald Reagan Did Compromise And Raise Taxes
Steve Benen points to this interesting exchange from yesterday’s 60 Minutes profile of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (I’ve cued up the Youtube embed to start at the 10:09 mark, but you can watch the whole thing if you’d like):
Given his upbringing and his marriage, Cantor says he’s nothing like the intractable obstructionist the Democrats say he is.
Cantor: Nobody gets everything they want. And so–
Stahl: That’s just exactly your image: that you want only what you want.
Cantor: But it’s just I hope I’m not coming across like that now, because it’s just not who I am. I mean, it really is–
Stahl: So are you ready to compromise?
Cantor: So I have always been ready to cooperate. I mean, if you go back to the first–
Stahl: What’s the difference between compromise and cooperate?
Cantor: Well, I would say cooperate is let’s look to where we can move things forward where we agree. Comprising principles, you don’t want to ask anybody to do that. That’s who they are as their core being.
Stahl: But you know, your idol, as I’ve read anyway, was Ronald Reagan. And he compromised.
Cantor: He never compromised his principles.
Stahl: Well, he raised taxes and it was one of his principles not to raise taxes.
Cantor: Well, he– he also cut taxes.
Stahl: But he did compromise–
Cantor: Well I –
[Press Secretary: That just isn’t true. And I don’t want to let that stand.]
And at that point, Cantor’s press secretary interrupted, yelling from off camera that what I was saying wasn’t true.
[Reagan: My fellow Americans…]
There seemed to be some difficulty accepting the fact that even though Ronald Reagan cut taxes, he also pushed through several tax increases, including one in 1982 during a recession.
[Reagan: Make no mistake about it, this whole package is a compromise.]
Of course, Leslie Stahl is right and Eric Cantor, and his Press Secretary, are wrong. Not counting minor tax adjustments contained in miscellaneous bills passed over the course of Reagan’s eight years, there were at least four major bills which President Reagan signed into law which increased taxes:
- The Tax Equity And Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 which was described at the time as the largest tax increase in American history. TEFRA accomplished this largely by cancelling out several tax cuts that had been included in The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, President Reagan’s signature fiscal package of his first year in office. TEFRA was necessitated by the decline in revenue caused by the ongoing recession, and it was supported by President Reagan;
- The Highway Revenue Act of 1982 increased the Federal Gasoline Tax by more than 100% (from 4 cents per gallon to 9 cents per gallon) and lasted until September 1988
- The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act Of 1985 changed the rules under which employer provided health plans would be tax deductible, thus increasing taxes for employers who failed to comply with the rules; and,
- The Tax Reform Act Of 1986 lowered tax rates but also eliminated tax shelters and a broad range of deductions, including the tax deduction for credit card interest, and expanded to application of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) so that it now applies to more middle class families than ever before.
So, yes, Reagan compromised and he raised taxes. Because he was more concerned about actually governing than proving some ideological point.